Life Hacks for Musicians

The Laws of Practicing & More Tips on Preparing Music

foxsfiresides

Many of the early South Hills Junior Orchestra “Fox’s Firesides” are about developing new techniques to solve musical problems, dispelling the myth that all you need to do is put in the time. Is there any truth in “practice makes perfect?” Not really. It is more critical that all instrumentalists set-up a regular schedule for focused practice, limiting all distractions, defining and working on goals, and then the truer adage can be modeled: “perfect practice develops perfect playing.”

Perhaps since January is the first month of The New Year, this would be a good time to review the different practice techniques we have already published at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/foxs-firesides/, especially #1, #4, and #8.

Here are a few more ideas, “borrowed” from my former place of employment – the Upper St. Clair School District Performing Arts Department.

 

THE LAWS OF PRACTICING

The 24-Hour Law – It takes 24 hours for yesterday’s lesson to be learned.

The Perfect Attendance Law – Practicing a little every day always beats cramming.

The Three Musketeers Law – Never practice without a metronome, tuner, or recording device to hear how you sound.

The “Elephant in the Room” Law – One must “face the music,” specifically, the musical passage with which they are struggling the most.

The Sloth Law – When in doubt, play it slower.

 

LIFE HACKS (Practice Edition)

Sloth Hack – Playing slower, to the point that it is impossible to mess up.

Jaws Hack – Slur a passage with which you are struggling.

seriestoshare-logo-01Karaoke Hack – Play the passage in conjunction with your favorite recording of the piece.

Time Trial Hack – Put a timer on for a few minutes and see how much you can accomplish in a short amount of time.

Drop the Bass Hack – If a passage is too high, play it down an octave.

Cheat Code Hack – Simplify a rhythm if you are struggling to learn it.

Here are several additional websites with excellent “hack” recommendations for developing better practice skills, but don’t forget to ask your school music director and private teacher for more advice!

 

Keep up your commitment to and PRACTICE towards real self-improvement, creative self-expression, making beautiful music, and participating in your school and community bands and orchestras!

PKF

hi-res logo 2018

 

The mission of South Hills Junior Orchestra, which rehearses and performs at the Upper St. Clair High School in Pittsburgh, PA, is to support and nurture local school band and orchestra programs, to develop knowledge, understanding, performance skills, and an appreciation of music, to increase an individual member’s self-esteem and self-motivation, and to continue to advance a life-long study of music. Members of the Orchestra learn, grow, and achieve positions of leadership to serve their fellow members.

(For more information about SHJO, please visit www.shjo.org.)

This and all Fox’s Fireside blog-posts are free and available to share with other music students, parents, directors, and supporters of the arts.

Click here for a printable copy of LIFE HACKS for Musicians

Other “Fox Firesides” are available at https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/foxs-firesides/.

 

© 2019 Paul K. Fox

Photo credit from Pixabay.com: “Fireplace” by judenicholson

On the Road Again…

PA_Turnpike_Commission_logo.svgI hate the Pennsylvania Turnpike… but I’ll get over it!

Over the 43+ years that I’ve been involved in music education conferences starting in college and attending our annual events in Lancaster, Hershey, Valley Forge, and everywhere else, I have used this “blessed” road.

Oh, it’s much better now. There are more stretches of 70 mph speed limits, and even the rest stops and restaurants are improved than they were 10 and 20 years ago. However, the twisting-twining roads, usual “bad weather” (why does it always rain or snow during the state conference?), need to jockey for position with all those large tractor-trailer trucks, etc. always challenge my nerves and patience.

Hey, it’s what we do. And I’ll never give it up.

The annual trek for acquisition of professional development remain such a critical element for self-improvement, program assessment, and personal enrichment. The annual spring and summer conferences of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association offer an incredible depth of new materials, methods, and perspective, not to mention the all-so-essential networking, “catch-up with colleagues,” and collaboration of ideas.

As they say in the movie Shawshank Redemption (1994), “get busy living or get busy dying.” In this business, we have to look forward, seek innovation and reinvention, “build a better mouse trap,“ and absorb advice from “the latest and greatest” clinicians and “people on the move.” That’s how you GROW!

For more than four decades, I have never attended a day of professional development or a conference that I didn’t learn a myriad of new things, feel refreshed and recharged, and return to “make a difference” in my classroom, my school, and my program.

pmeaSoon I will be attending my 51st PMEA conference (counting springs and summers). I always feel a little nostalgic this time a year when I recollect all of those PMEA District, Region State, and All-State festivals, the latter held in conjunction with the music educators conference. I’m also remembering all the times I took my students to these events, capturing memories of specific individuals, singing in their choral parts in the car, swapping old stories about previous orchestras, choirs, and conductors, and providing a few last-minute tips on how to take auditions.

Now that I’m retired, my time is more devoted in making presentations and sharing a portion of what is now a vast vault of hard-won knowledge, skills, and experiences in order to help my colleagues with their unique situations and problems. They say that “work” provides us with the three essential elements of purpose, structure, and community. Even in retirement, participating in PMEA provides me all these things and the chance to continue to interact with like-minded and committed music educators, literally for the good of the profession.

In my capacity as PMEA state retired member coordinator, I sponsor a breakfast meeting prior to the Friday morning sessions at the annual spring conference, and I have the pmea conferenceprivilege of keeping “in tune” with fellow retirees, active practitioners, and even members of our PCMEA pre-service music teachers. This has stimulated my mind, kept me current, made me a better listener, and fostered a lot of moments of satisfaction knowing that I can still help dedicated professionals in the career that I devoted most of my life.

For those of you who have never attended a PMEA spring conference, shame on you. The annual state-of-the-art music teacher clinics, music industry exhibits, keynote presenters, and “best in the state” performances are provided to inspire you and “recharge your batteries.” Take a few personal days and see what’s up. For Pennsylvania music educators during April 19-21, 2018, we are at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. (For a schedule of sessions, concerts, and meetings, go to https://www.pmea.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/2018-Conf-Schedule-from-Spring-News-edit-3.26.pdf.) Next year, we will convene in my hometown, Pittsburgh, a combined in-service conference with the biennial NAfME Eastern Division.

Lancaster-City-Marriott

Finally, for those of you who have retired from day-to -day teaching of music classes, going to PMEA spring and summer conferences also offers you the opportunity to explore our fine state, visit historical sites, taste the cuisine, soak up the landscapes, and see the unique attractions in each city. Lancaster is a great place to take excursions. Did anyone suggest “road trip” for the grandchildren? Here are a few of the local (family-friendly) attractions you could “squeeze around” the official PMEA-scheduled events:

Pittsburgh_skyline_panorama_at_night

When you plan to come to Pittsburgh during the first week of April 2019, I want you to take an extra day if you can and enjoy our cultural attractions, sports events in one of the three stadiums, landmarks like the Blockhouse, Fort Duquesne, Point State Park, and the three rivers themselves, and go to places like the Carnegie Science Center, Andy Warhol Museum, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, etc.

So much to do and so little time…

PKF

 

You are cordially invited to…

MM1

…a PMEA session for soon-to-retire and retired music teachers

MM2

 

© 2018 Paul K. Fox